MQair - The New Scalable Hi-Res Codec For Mobile Devices
MQA Ltd has developed MQair, a new hi-res wireless codec that promises to deliver higher quality PCM and MQA audio files to wireless and Bluetooth devices.
First off, what's the difference between MQair and MQA? Apparently, MQair is a real-time delivery codec which is said to seamlessly scale up or down to deliver the best sound. Whereas the OG MQA is an audio tool for creating the “best original master”.
The new codec is officially dubbed SCL6, but MQA has given it the friendlier name of MQair for public use. SCL6 supports PCM and MQA audio formats up to 384kHz, over Bluetooth, Ultra-Wideband (UWB) and wi-fi streaming connections. Additionally, MQair claims to offer low latency and high efficiency, which should translate to better battery stamina from compatible wireless devices.
Furthermore, MQair has also been awarded the hi-res audio wireless certification from the Japan Audio Society (JAS). This gold stamp confirms hi-res audio status and can be found on products such as Sony headphones and portable players, as well as the Qobuz streaming service.
MQA says that MQair's detail and clarity are derived by focusing on the time domain. However, perhaps more important is that the encoded data rate is apparently scalable. We're told that MQair can scale from 20Mbps to below 200kbps low bitrates “seamlessly” in tiny increments.
From what we gather, other codecs take larger steps, and once they have lowered quality in response to a poor data rate, they will need to be restarted to take advantage of the better stream. But, that aside, taking smaller steps should mean we're far less likely to notice the changes in quality – so, no sudden jump down and a quicker response from the codec when the speeds improve.
Bob Stuart, MQA Founder & CTO, explains:
Many people want to enjoy the convenience of wireless connection to headphones or earbuds - especially 'on-the-go'. Invariably these wireless connections provide unpredictable data rates, and a codec is needed to bridge the gap. This 'bridge' can significantly reduce sound quality, especially if the source is high-resolution. MQair is a real-time codec that can seamlessly adapt to both the radio capacity and the music content and aims to maximise transparency.
As with all new codecs, it will be down to who adopts it and how easy it is for the end-user to consume it. It will certainly be interesting to see how long it takes before we see the MQair logo appearing on wireless devices. Moreover, we'll be keeping an eye on TIDAL to see if it takes the lead in supplying MQair to listeners, as it already uses the MQA format for its Masters hi-res offerings.
StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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